After "signing" with EST, I took several "classes" I had to pay for. The agent I signed up with told me my picture would not be put out unless I had taken the classes, so they knew I'd be able to audition. This is NOT what is done at an agency with a SAG/AFTRA franchise, and is one of the big reasons Elizabeth Savage LOST her SAG/AFTRA franchise many, many years ago.
They'll tell you that being a union member will not get you as much work in Arizona. At the moment, "not as much" of "nothing" doesn't mean much, but it's not required that you be a member of the union to go to a SAG/AFTRA agency - this I did not know.
After the classes, I was (suprise-suprise) "chosen" to go to the International Modeling and Talent Association show in New York. For several thousands of dollars, I'd be flown to New York, stay in a hotel near Central Park, and get admission to the IMTA. Honestly, they did take pretty good care to choose a decent hotel and we did fly on a major airline, but the money I spent could've gone to taking my whole family on this trip.
After taking what amounted to an expensive pleasure trip (and yes, getting to hang out with some beautiful people), I got maybe five jobs from EST. Each job was what's called in the industry a "buyout," meaning they pay you once for your work and they can use it for advertising, internal promotion, training, whatever for ever. That's really not how it's supposed to work - you're supposed to be paid per use, or per a time period (like a year or 18 months, something like that), and for that a substantial sum of money - not $100-$300 MINUS EST's high fees.
EST charged very high fees for their services - 20%. It was less for union work (by law!) at 15%. But the way EST makes money is with their classes and with IMTA. The amount they charge for the classes and for IMTA (as well as a bit they're abel to glean from the slave labor and the occassional very talented and beautiful person they prostitute) is what keeps their lights on.
In conclusion - IMTA, don't do it. Non-union "agency" (especially but not limited to those who take your money to put your picture, which they take, on the Internet - who hires from the Internet, for Heaven's sake?) - don't do it. Elizabeth Savage - about the slickest operator with the most "legitimate" sell, but don't do it. Remember, you don't have to be union to be represented by an agency with a SAG/AFTRA franchise!
Educate yourself - this place is an excellet first step. Find out about SAG and AFTRA. Find out how difficult the modeling and entertainment business is to find work in. Do it as a side thing for a while and see if you even enjoy it or can take the often very cruel rejection and back stabbing. It could be enjoyable, it could turn into something that makes a few spare dollars on the side, and it could be a nightmare.
Oh, I almost forgot - EST's contract? Since they're not union and this is a right to work state, it's pretty much worthless. But don't sign it anyway.